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2020 BtBS Team Previews: Boston Red Sox

This is still a good, competitive team, but owner John Henry has clearly stopped caring about this team winning.

Alex Cora Departure Press Conference
Pictured here: not Mookie Betts
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox had a disappointing 2109 season, to say the least. They went from 108 wins in 2018 to 84. They went from a historically good team, and arguably the best in franchise history to a mediocre one. They missed the playoffs and won fewer games than the Diamondbacks and Mets.

This was not terribly dissimilar to their 2014 season. They brought back more-or-less the same team from their championship season the year before, only to suffer as much bad luck as they did good luck in the previous season.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Xander Bogaerts and Christian Vázquez had career years. Rafael Devers broke out big time, turning into the hitter that prospect analysts always believed he could be. He hit .311/.361/.555 with 32 HR and a 17 K%. His fielding still is not very good, but it improved over the previous season, and if he keeps hitting like this, the team will be more than happy to live with it.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the firing of manager Alex Cora, a result of his heavy involvement in the Astros’ cheating scandal. It is expected that the Sox will promote bench coach Ron Roenicke to take his place. He will be inheriting a franchise currently in turmoil...

You know what, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t write about this team like anybody should care about them this season. John Henry’s trade of Mookie Betts will go down in infamy, right there with the same franchise selling Babe Ruth 100 years ago. Henry used to be one of the best owners in the sport, one who gladly bankrolled the highest team payrolls in the league, and just because it didn’t work last year, he decided he now wants to save money he doesn’t need. It’s like he is pretending that his team did not win the 2018 championship on a high payroll, or that the Nationals were able to win in 2019 thanks to a trio of excellent, highly paid starting pitchers.

The Fenway Sports Group is the third richest in the world, valued at $6.6 billion. Even if the reports that Betts and ownership were over $100 million apart on an extension — reports I would take with a gigantic grain of salt given the Sox’s track record of using the media to push their own narratives — were true, Betts is easily worth $420 million. Given that average players get eight-figure AAVs, $35 million a year for the second best player in baseball is not only worthwhile, it’s a steal, just like Mike Trout’s deal.

Betts is making just $27 million this year. I kid you not, for a rich, competitive team, he is worth twice that. Easily. Because of the messed up economics of the game, however, elite players are still underpaid in terms of AAV relative to average and above average free agents.

Henry just doesn’t care anymore. The economics of baseball have been broken for a long time. Last week might have been a nadir. When you trade a generational talent, a player that is the best your franchise has developed since Ted Williams, someone who is on a Hall of Fame track, and the results make your competitive team worse, there is something seriously wrong with your sport. It’s disgraceful.

Is Henry passing along any of the savings he does not need and will likely just sit in his bank account on to the fans? Of course not! He is raising ticket prices on what was already some of the most expensive tickets in baseball.

Henry’s bootlickers will probably point to the contracts of Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi in defending the Betts trade. That’s no excuse from a team and franchise this wealthy. Even if these contracts turn into Pablo Sandoval-level disasters, teams are rich enough to absorb sunk costs while still paying elite talent hundreds of millions of dollars. Fans should accept nothing less from a >$10 billion industry full of teams that refuse to open their books to prove otherwise. Financial flexibility is a myth.

Don’t say that it’s a business, either. Nobody who ever argues that point ever takes it to its logical conclusion. Do you know the most profitable year a team ever had? No, it was not by a highly competitive Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox team. It was the 2013 Houston Astros. The 51-111 Houston Astros. Only one player on the team was making over a million dollars. The team combined for $21 million in payroll. Yet, their $99 million operating income that year was “nearly as much as the estimated operating income of the previous six World Series championship teams — combined.”

You want to make the business argument? Fine. Then you had better start criticizing any team that rosters players who are not pre-arb eligible on their rookie deals. Such a team would be unwatchable, but at least their profits will be soaring! That’s why we watch baseball, right? To watch billionaires get richer?

Ok, ok, this is supposed to be a team preview, so I guess I’ll get on with it. Here we go.

The Red Sox were capable of winning a tough AL East before trading away David Price and Betts, but now that seems pretty unlikely. The Wild Card is likely their best chance, but if Sale and Eovaldi do not bounce back, they might very well be on the outside looking in again once the post season starts.

As I mentioned in one of my DRA-RA9 articles, Sale is a good bet to rebound this season. Despite his high 4.89 RA9, his 2.93 DRA indicated that he more or less pitched like vintage Chris Sale, but did not get the results for one reason or another. As for Eovaldi, well, one has to hope that he can’t help but improve on a 6.12 RA9. They are really going to miss Price, though, even if he is nothing more than a back end starter now, because the back of the rotation looks to be occupied by replacement level players right now.

The lineup is more-or-less the same from last year, except of course with the gigantic change of going from Mookie Betts to Alex Verdugo. Don’t get me wrong, Verdugo should be very good, but his ceiling is likely half that of Betts’. The offense ranked in the top ten in baseball last season, and it should still be pretty potent in 2020.

The bench is pretty weak right now. An owner that actually cared about his team would bring back Brock Holt in a heartbeat. As for the bullpen, they are always difficult to predict due to the volatility of relievers, but this one should be solid at worst, though likely better than that. Matt Barnes, Marcus Walden, Josh Taylor, and Heath Hembree were quite productive last year. Brandon Workman was a monster, but don’t expect him to have a 2.26 RA9 again, especially when he walked almost 16 percent of batters faced last year.

This should be a competitive team in 2020 that could be fun to watch, though the lack of starting pitching could lead to the Red Sox missing the playoffs again. Regardless, don’t watch this team. Don’t go to their games. Don’t buy their paraphernalia. Don’t reward Henry for executing one of the most selfish trades in baseball history. As Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser put it, “Why even own a baseball team if you’re going to trade Mookie Betts?”

I’ll leave you with some fun facts about John Henry, the man who cried poor over the possibility of paying Mookie Betts $35 million a year.

Here is Henry’s $90 million yacht!

Here’s his $70 million private jet!

This is Henry’s Florida mansion that he listed for $25 million before dropping the price. You can click here if you want to see the inside.

This is Henry’s mansion in Brookline, MA, which is likely worth more than his Florida home.

Oh, and did I mention he owns Liverpool? That franchise is worth $2.2 billion.

. . .

Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.